Doris looked at him with rather mocking eyes, but said nothing. She fully recognised, however, that Arthur would have been an ungrateful wretch if he had not enjoyed it. Lady Dunstable had been, so to speak, at his feet, and all her little court had taken their cue from her. He had been flattered, drawn out, and shown off to his heart’s content, and had been most naturally and humanly happy. “And I,” thought Doris with sudden repentance, “was just a spiky, horrid little toad! What was wrong with me?” She was still searching, when Meadows said reproachfully:
“I thought, darling, you might have taken a little more trouble to make friends with Lady Dunstable. However, that’ll be all right. I told her, of course, we should be delighted to go to Scotland.”
“Arthur!” cried Doris, aghast. “Three weeks! I couldn’t, Arthur! Don’t ask me!”
“And, pray, why?” he angrily inquired.
“Because—oh, Arthur, don’t you understand? She is a man’s woman. She took a particular dislike to me, and I just had to be stubborn and thorny to get on at all. I’m awfully sorry—but I couldn’t stay with her, and I’m certain you wouldn’t be happy either.”
“I should be perfectly happy,” said Meadows, with vehemence. “And so would you, if you weren’t so critical and censorious. Anyway”—his Jove-like mouth shut firmly—“I have promised.”
“You couldn’t promise for me!” cried Doris, holding her head very high.
“Then you’ll have to let me go without you?”
“Which, of course, was what you swore not to do!” she said, provokingly. “I thought my wife was a reasonable woman! Lady Dunstable rouses all my powers; she gives me ideas which may be most valuable. It is to the interest of both of us that I should keep up my friendship with her.”
“Then keep it up,” said Doris, her cheeks aflame. “But you won’t want me to help you, Arthur.”
He cried out that it was only pride and conceit that made her behave so. In her heart of hearts, Doris mostly agreed with him. But she wouldn’t confess it, and it was presently understood between them that Meadows would duly accept the Dunstables’ invitation for August, and that Doris would stay behind.
After which, Doris looked steadily out of the window for the rest of the journey, and could not at all conceal from herself that she had never felt more miserable in her life. The only person in the trio who returned to the Kensington house entirely happy was Jane, who spent the greater part of the day in describing to Martha, the cook-general, the glories of Crosby Ledgers, and her own genteel appearance in Mrs. Meadows’s blouse.